Translator's Notes, Patrice Titterington:
Un panier de framboises is a selection of epigrams by a relatively forgotten American writer, Natalie Clifford Barney (1877-1972). These writings were culled from three out-of-print volumes whose publication dates span nearly twenty years: Eparillements (1910), Pensées d'une Amazone (1920), and Nouvelles Pensées d'une Amazone (1939). They were edited by Jean Chalon, who was Barney's French biographer and friend in later life. Barney was the prolific bilingual author of novels, poetry, plays and literary criticism. During the first decades of this century, her work was lauded by an impressive group of writers on both sides of the Atlantic, most of whom she also counted as her friends: Pierre Louÿs, Colette, Marcel Proust, Aragón, Valéry, Max Jacob, Ezra Pound, Rémy de Gourmont, and Marguérite Yourcenar.
Natalie Barney's present literary obscurity perhaps reflects the preference of the woman herself and the patriarchal world from which even her wealth, intelligence, and reputation did not lend her immunity. When approached by friends in the 1960's who wished to honor her contribution to 20th century literature with the publication of her Selected Writings, Barney, then in her 80's, resented the inquiries about her life and her work. Her editors realized then that she preferred the art of living to the art of literature: "J'aime ma vie. D'abord parce que j'ai su la garder libre pour pouvoir mieux la donner." ("I love my life. Primarily because I knew how to remain free to be better able to give of myself.") That fact is indisputable--Barney's salon at 20 rue Jacob opened in October 1909 and was to continue for sixty years during which her "Fridays" would become a Left Bank institution. It seems likely that Barney, through her salon, had much to do with fashioning literary reputations.
The effects of the patriarchal suppression of women's cultural contributions must also be considered in the discussion of any "forgotten" woman writer. Natalie Barney was comfortable with and open about her sexual preference for women long before the "second wave of feminism" provided a limited haven and sense of community for lesbians. She was confident enough to pen her own epitaph: "Elle était l'amie des hommes et l'amant des femmes. . . ."(She was the friend of men and the lover of women. . . .")
The selections which follow should be perceived as a collection of Barney's memorable observations on love, concluded from her own life experiences, and perhaps from those of the friends and acquaintances who frequented her Paris salon. (As with other literary genres, epigrams take much of their truth and wit from actual events.)